People fear what they don’t understand, they fear change based on things they don’t understand. With fear our logic and rationality go out the window, and we use our biases to understand and ‘rationalise’ things so our mind can process the information, this information then becomes our reality. This is never clearer than in conversations with anti GRA proponents.
In 1988 after a long attack on the gay and lesbian community, Thatcher’s government brought in the infamous and hateful Section 28 law. This law proposed that teaching children and teenagers about the existence of LGBT people would harmfully expose influences which would ‘confuse them’ and ’expose them’ to LGB sexual experiences thereby putting them at risk of predators. The act was thankfully repealed in Scotland in 2000 and England and Wales in 2003.
Horrifyingly, we are seeing this very same prejudiced argument from proponents of anti LGBTQIA+ education today with claims that: gay education will influence kids to be gay/ trans education will influence kids to be trans, gay people will put kids safety at risk of predators/ trans people will put kids and women’s safety at risk of predators. This is not new, these accusations by anti LGBTQIA + hate campaigners have always existed (*see @implausiblegrrl ‘s very informative thread on this). Their solution appears to be removing LGBTQIA+ education from schools, thereby reinstating Section 28 for the modern day.
Much of the argument against GRA also centres around the argument that predatory men will, apparently, spend a whole lot of extra time and effort to assault and rape women. What always strikes me about this argument is that men literally do not have to do that, men attack women daily as men, without any extra effort whatsoever; at work, at home, in the street *see #MeToo. Women are statistically more likely to be assaulted in their own home by someone known to them, or in a shared public space such as a street, park or bus stop than a women’s public toilet.
And yet, the research, facts and statistics don’t seem to be enough, nor does the fact that other countries with the GRA and these reforms in effect such as Norway, Belgium and Ireland which have no suddenly appearing crime sprees of predatory men abusing GRA.
Why is this? Why do facts and statistics not seem to change these people’s opinions?
Fear and cognitive bias.
Now, I’m not going to go into any depth on this here, it’s an extremely long and complex subject, suffice it to say, combine fear with cognitive bias and you have the recipe for every hate campaign and moral panic that has ever targeted any group; whether young people, goths, immigrants, gay people or non-binary and trans people.
When it comes to discussing and debating these issues, we hear a lot of talk about ‘building bridges’ and ‘listening to reasonable and genuine concerns’.
Recently, I witnessed a conversation online around actress Olivia Coleman supporting trans people in which a person graphically described her being sexually assaulted with gleefulness, and then used a graphic gif to emphasise their point. There was another conversation in which some gender critical people in the YES movement compared their favourite anti GRA MP and themselves to none other than Joan of Arc. I personally have had at least one man in the YES movement attempt to intimidate me with threats of rape because I refused to capitulate to his demands.
Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, you simply cannot have a reasonable discussion with people who have a sycophantic martyr complex which sees them comparing themselves to a Saint, and you cannot build a bridge with someone gleefully describing a woman being sexually assaulted or threatening a woman with rape.
The current ongoing attack on the trans and non-binary community – not just in the UK (but all over the world see Poland and Hungary ) – feels like a reminder to all of us who are LGBTQIA+ that even in the left, right wing ideology seeps in, and that we must never be complacent in our activism or in recognising how much it is needed in order for Section 28 to never occur again here.
However, there is hope, with Finland and Denmark both pushing forward with left wing values and policies in relation to LGBTQIA rights, Finland’s parliamentary leader is calling for GRA and Norway has passed a Hate Crimes Bill to include LGBTQIA+.
It would be a shame if Scotland was to be known as a regressive country with regressive right-wing values which puts fear, bias and ignorance above rationality, knowledge and inclusion.